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« Imran Khan: the 12th man rises..(Omar Ali) | Main | Notes from Gaza »

November 09, 2011


@ Ruchira:

I'd like to see the adoring fans of Joe Paterno gather to hold a candle light vigil for the victims of Sandusky. I won't hold my breath.

No, don't hold your breath. Predictably, the adoring fans rioted last night to vent their anger at what they see as "damage" to their beloved football program. The criminal damage done to the young and completely vulnerable kids that Sandusky abused does not figure in their calculations.

I am actually afraid for those abuse victims, many of whom are young adults now. I wonder if a misguided Penn State fan will target any of them for being the instruments of the downfall of their venerated coach.

Incidentally, Graham Spanier, the president of Penn, who was also fired last night, was the chancellor of the University of Nebraska for a very short time when I lived there.

An even better commentary.

@ Ruchira:

I hope it will be revealed about who knew what, when, where, and how. The biggest question, for me, is why there was no immediate decisive action against Sandusky. My guess is that we may find willful indifference with a hope that Sandusky will go away soon, or a calculated sweeping under a rug to avoid unforeseen investigations, civil liabilities, and loss of University prestige. Prestige translates, in part, into money.

For the moment, I am not critical of the graduate student who observed and reported the crime. It is not a stretch to imagine that he might have been traumatized by what he witnessed. He did report the matter to the proper authority after consulting with his father. He cannot be held responsible for the lapse of the University's management. Nor can he be expected to monitor the actions of the University administration. There is a board to handle that. Maureen Dowd is irresponsible for chastising the reporting student for not following up. She does not know the student's state of mind. She may have heaped guilt on top of trauma for that young man. Witnessing abuse is no different than witnessing death and carnage on the battlefield. Both can traumatize and cause PTSD. The young man who first reported the matter should be offered counseling should he feel he has a need.

It does not occur to some people that organizations, and their individual members, have to be trained to react properly when they witness an atrocity being committed upon a child. In matters of homeland security, we advise people, "If you see something, say something. Call 1-800-1234567." It is no different with child sex abuse. The public must be educated as to what constitutes abuse, and the importance of reporting. Also, the public must be given the proper words to use when reporting what they may have observed. We cannot take this for granted.

Finally, and this is my personal opinion, it is a likelihood that other abusers will have been involved with Sandusky. We are not dealing with a lone Boy Scout leader who is low in the ranks. Sandusky is a powerful person, establishing a highly visible organization, who is known to many, with connections to people or organizations with money, and mutual connections with people of influence and power. He is alive and abusing nine years after the 2002 incident was reported. Paedophiles do not dabble. Their entire life (work, play, family, hobbies, friends, associates) is oriented toward the satisfaction of their perversion. He was done this all his life while putting himself visibly and knowingly into a world of unlimited opportunity for finding victims. Scratch Sandusky and you will find a child sex abuse ring. The members will be known to everyone, though not known as abusers. If you want to understand a paedophile ring, think: PPPP - Power, Protection, Pleasure, and Profit. That's how they operate. That's how they survive. That's how they keep going, even after they are exposed.

It amazes me that anyone could continue to work with a person they knew may have raped a child without trying to find some sort of clarification, either personal or legal. For ten years. Did Paterno never investigate the claim, and just ignore that he worked with an person accused of rape? I find that unconscionable.

But not unbelievable. People ignore the crimes of their immediate peers all the time, although they are typically of a lesser nature.

@ Cyrus:

"It amazes me...". This is one of those issues that baffles everyone. "How could they, if they knew?" Yet, and hold onto your hats everyone, it happens all the time. The degree of denial and self-protective oblivion, is more the norm. For example, a 14 year old girl tells her mother that her husband (step father) is sexually abusing her. The mother accuses her daughter of lying. If the matter goes to the police and the courts, the entire family turns on the girl. If they admit the abuse happened they blame the problem on the daughter. Having had a lot of interactions with victims over the past 7.5 years, I still shake my head and say, "It amazes me...."

Norm, I completely agree with you that a person witnessing such action by a friend / family member/ associate / superior, will be thoroughly shaken. But I don't agree that the graduate student wasn't "responsible." He was a vital link in the chain of people who knew of the crime. However traumatized, he was not a callow youth like a middle or high school student. He was in his late twenties, a full grown man and an apprentice in the same organization that Sandusky and Paterno were part of. His dad asked him to call Paterno; Paterno called someone else. So, technically they all called a higher up in the chain of command and thought they had done their duty. But no one called the police, the right agency to go to in case of a crime. None of these adults figured out that sodomizing a ten year old is a crime? Hard to believe. They were all complicit in this and therefore all are responsible, including the graduate student,

The erstwhile graduate student, Mike McQueary is also an erstwhile Penn State football player now on Paterno's coaching staff. He has risen pretty high in the ladder of college football, is in the market for a college coaching job and may even have been in line to take Paterno's place in Penn State. He is a big well built man. If he did not have the stomach to tackle Sandusky right then and there and rescue the kid, he should at least have called the cops. I am surprised that McQueary's head is not among those that rolled last night. Disgusting.


Yea, I sadly aware of the state of affairs. I think you wrote a fictional story on 3QD with a related story line once, no? Focused on spousal abuse?

I have to agree with Ruchira on McQueary. He can't play the innocent by-standard who did the right thing, unless there's more we don't know. How can he justify not having intervened?

Apparently there is an unsolved missing persons case related to Sandusky, and some implication of foul play. A former DA who had investigated Sandusky over an earlier allegation of "shower play" went missing after dropping the case. His laptop was found, hard drive missing. All very mysterious. If Sandusky had him offed, I could understand McQueary's reluctance. But that's pretty damn wild speculation.

Has anyone read the indictment or transcript of McQueary's testimony? Maybe that would clear some things up.

I can't say anything further about McQueary without more information or knowing his state of mind, but all points well taken.

It is the responsibility of any institution, especially those with responsibilities over young people, to train their employees on EXACTLY what to do when confronted with evidence of abuse, in any form. Clearly, any presumed understanding (or head in the sand) that people would do the right thing was a mistake. I am surprised because ALL colleges and universities have programs and procedures to prevent rape, escort students, install panic alarms, regular patrols, etc.

I am really, really interested in finding out the sequence of events and who said what, and did what, to whom. If the criminal code allows it, and the evidence supports it, I would like to see people prosecuted for accessory after the fact. Then I'd smack the parading supporters of Paterno upside the head and tell them to protest the crime of abuse and the mud worms who did nothing.

@ Cyrus:

Thanks for remembering. The story was based on a real case of domestic violence, but names and such were changed, "Absolute Prosecutorial Discretion." The wrong person was being charged and the assistant County prosecutor had her own agenda.

Priorities at Penn State are seriously misaligned.

The report of the grand jury investigation.

Ruchira and others, the presence in an organization or family of only one abuser, provided he/she is powerful enough, will tune the whole family or organization to protect the abuser, not the victim(s). Non-earning incestuous fathers are easier than high-earning ones to face the truth about and act to remove, for instance. But even a layabout incestuous father whose only pocket money comes from robbing piggy banks can be a successful enough bully, within the family, to command fear and omerta. You would need a system in which the rights of children, of even only one child, were paramount, a system in which a fast risk-benefit analysis simply could not yield the morally wrong answer, before the greater good of "responsible" others could never be set ahead of the the rights and well being of a child.

This is not a mindset we see much of, in our institutions. Corporate welfare is set far ahead of education, food and healthcare for children, for instance -- all we have to do to be convinced of that is to look at what really happens, not at what we pay lip-service to. We have not yet, as a society, achieved a moral climate that privileges children because they are children the way liberation theology privileges the poor because they are poor. The child rapists who lurk in locker rooms, who coach football, who say Mass and lead Scout troops are personally hideously guilty of their crimes, of course, but they also hold up the mirror to society's values as much as they trangress against those values. Whoever doesn't like that must refuse at any cost to benefit from it. That they don't refuse is why pedophiles in power can and do prevail, at least as often as well-placed men who rape grown women.

Excellent observation by Elatia. As an example, consider the values of the JoPa cheering squad - and not one word from them about the consequences for, and suffering of, the child victims.

We are the shame of the developed world when it comes to the health and survival of newborns and pregnant women. Deaths of children through to adolescence is a disgrace.

Now we hear calls for the head of McQueary. So far, we know of no other person in the chain of command who reacted, as did McQueary, with shock, was distraught, and consulted a supportive person over witnessing the horrible rape of the child by Sandusky. I've not heard, yet, that anyone from JoPa to the President showed evidence of a sickened heart over the matter.

...and to make my point, see "Survivors of sexual abuse appalled by Penn State unrest."

Sorry, in my previous comment I mistakenly linked to John Scalzi's biography page. Here is the link to the pertinent article.

It might not have been so unthinkable weeks ago (c/o Brad DeLong's blog).

@ Dean:

Thanks for the link. Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law all over again. Vatican 'handling' all over again.

For a variety of reasons, I think the comparison doesn't quite work. At one surface level, yes, both are cases of powerful organizations protecting themselves at the expense of the lives of individual human beings. This parody suggests one way in which they differ. Replace Penn State with Vatican, Paterno (and wow, isn't that just a beautiful name, rich in Freudian possibilities?) or Sandusky with Law (!), and it's hard to imagine the Onion bothering to tell the joke.

I saw the Onion piece early after the scandal broke. Substitute ESPN with a Catholic news outlet and the spoof will work perfectly, down to blaming the victims for tarnishing the reputations of exalted leaders.

What Ruchira said!

I disagree, Norm and Ruchira. "Substitute ESPN with a Catholic news outlet..." completely misses an important basis for the humor, which itself reflects the inordinate salience of professional and college sports in our lives, even for those of us who have little interest in athletics. The parody mocks the cult of athletics, an important target in the aftermath of the Paterno and Sandusky scandals. The counterpart in the context of the Catholic church is the church itself, which responds defensively to protect its insularity, authority, wealth, and, for lack of a better word, mystery. The cult of athletics is ironically demotic; the cult of the church is...a cult. Here's another parody depicting the difference, I hope.

And the apologists for JoPa just keep a comin'


...completely misses an important basis for the humor, which itself reflects the inordinate salience of professional and college sports in our lives, even for those of us who have little interest in athletics. The parody mocks the cult of athletics, an important target in the aftermath of the Paterno and Sandusky scandals.

That is the whole point, isn't it? Treating athletics like religion as I point out in my post is why the church analogy came up in the first place. As for the "inordinate slalience of religion in our lives even for those of us who have little interest" isn't that exactly the same story when skeptics who question the corruption in organized religion are repeatedly exhorted to "respect" the sensibilities of the believers and their leaders?

Anyway, this case is so disturbing and depressing that I really do not think that what the Onion thinks of the pope or Paterno is salient here. The truth is that a disgusting crime and cover up took place. It is time now for proportionate punishment. No amount of satire is going to make things right for the eight (who knows how many more, actually) young people who were grossly exploited and violated. A group of powerful adults who were friends and employers of the perpetrator let them down, not by commission but omission and the pedophile continued to prey. That is an age old story whether it happens inside the home, a youth camp or the church.

My point is that treating athletics like religion is not the same as treating religion like athletics. So, no, there is no comparably inordinate salience of religion in our lives. This doesn't mean that non-believers (or folks like myself who simply don't care enough to worry about whether or not we believe) aren't occasionally struck by news about one church or another. But the churches are for the most part easy to ignore, pedophile scandals being a clear exception to the general circumstance. This is simply not the case with professional and college sports.

So, no, there is no comparably inordinate salience of religion in our lives.

You obviously don't live in Texas. Berkeley is a different world altogether.

Athletic events in Texas are far more salient nationally than Texan religious activities, give or take a mega-church or two. Similarly, I bet more Texans are aware of, care about, and devote time, money, and energy to sports events related to the Bay Area than to religious activities here. As an aside, Berkeley has dozens of churches from a spectrum of denominations, a higher concentration than I've ever before noticed.

i wonder why. When running applications in universities are handled with more reverence than academics.

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